Thursday, June 24, 2010

It All Matters

"OK," you might ask, "what does wine packaging have to do with topics normally discussed at Vine & Grape?"

Just this: when it comes to wine, everything matters. By analogy: go to an automobile dealership. If their demonstrator vehicles have ashtrays full of cigarette butts and smell like trash incinerators, what is that dealership's commitment to quality? Are they proud of the cars they sell? Will you get great post-purchase support? Get conscientious work from their service department?

Now go buy a case of wine. Carry it out of the retailer's store. The cardboard case flexes in your arms. You wonder if it will make it to the car. The bottles are clanking against each other because the separators between them are hardly the thickness of playing cards. The whole affair is held together with the cheapest, generic transparent tape. You begin to wonder in what other areas the winery cut corners: i.e., in grape growing? Vineyard management? Winemaking??

It all matters! I have friends who say my blood chemistry is impossible to distinguish from Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre, because I like the wine so much. Well, that's true enough. If any of us have a "go to" wine, i.e., a wine that just tastes right all the time, on almost all occasions, the Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre is mine. Lest I go overboard, here are only brief tasting impresssions: unity, complexity, and intensity, accompanied by stony minerality, lime leaf, and white grapefruit notes, with intelligent, even sensuous, undertones that reward repeated attention.

But I'm convinced my respect for this wonderful wine is a direct result of their commitment to quality at every single step of the process: grape-growing or sourcing, harvest timing and techniques, crush and fermentation, along with extraordinary care all the way through bottling and packaging. Look at the thickness of the cardboard case! Look at the thought that went into the bottle cradles, even including a thumb/finger hole to help remove them easily! It would be so easy for an accountant to say, "Oh, the packaging doesn't matter. If a few bottles break in transit, they are cheaper to replace than to buy good packaging. Besides, no one but the retailer or restaurant will see the packaging and they don't care. They just care about price."

Mais non! Au contraire. Where else did your accountant tell you to cut costs? Where else did the firm's leadership just not care? Just not think something was important?

So, let me sit in your demonstrator vehicles; you will tell you a lot about the pride you have in your automobile dealership. Take me to your restaurant's restrooms; I will know a lot more about the cleanliness of your kitchen.

Now. . . show me the quality of your wine's packaging; I will know almost all I need to know about the seriousness of your winemaking.